INTERVIEW WITH STRIKER GUITARIST TIM BROWN
Date: January 30, 2017
Photos: Dana Zuk Photography (photos 1, 2, 4, 5 and 9)
STRIKER MAY NOT BE A HOUSEHOLD NAME HERE AT SLEAZE ROXX BUT THIS IS LIKELY TO CHANGE WITH THE CANADIAN THRASH METAL ROCKERS ADOPTING A MORE SIMPLIFIED APPROACH ON THEIR LATEST AND UPCOMING FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM, THE APTLY NAMED ‘STRIKER’, WHICH WILL BE RELEASED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2017. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH STRIKER GUITARIST TIM BROWN TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HIS VIEWS ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, STRIKER AND OF COURSE THE BAND’S NEW UPCOMING ALBUM.
Sleaze Roxx: You released a new video for the song “Phoenix Lights” a while back. Why did you decide to do a video for that track and what was the idea behind the video?
Tim Brown: We decided to do that track because it’s the first song on the album [laughs] and we found that most of the time when people are checking out stuff, it’s usually the first song that they look at so it’s always wise to you know, put your singles first, especially in this day and age. But more on an artistic approach, we really like that song. We enjoy that song. We really like that song. It’s been a part of our live set for over a year now, basically since we wrote the song. We think it’s a really great song. The theme of the video is kind of… “Phoenix Lights” is kind of an alien event that happened over Phoenix. It was like a series of lights that everybody in the city saw and there was no explanation for it. So it’s kind of about aliens and we wanted to have a kind of spooky looking video so that’s what we came up with! What’s spookier than going out in the woods in the dark, right?
Striker‘s “Phoenix Lights” video:
Phoenix Lights: Striker’s new single from the album, “Stand in the Fire”. Pre order Striker’s newest self titled album here: https://strikermetal.myshopify.com/ New online store with exclusive “Phoenix Lights” merch plus all our old designs in mens, womens, tank tops, t-shirts, and more! https://strikermetal.myshopify.com/ Check out http://www.striker-metal.com for all the details on new albums, merch, tours, and other details!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] It’s a cool video. I am not that familiar with Striker but I was going through your videos and I see that you guys have a real sense of humour with the video for “Start Again.”
Tim Brown: Yeah. That’s actually coincidentally the same forest. Our director is Lindsay Robertson, our friend, and that’s at his family’s farm. So there is a giant forest out there so we filmed two music videos out there and I think there’s probably some other local bands that have filmed music videos out there as well.
Striker‘s “Start Again” video:
Order “City Of Gold” now: http://shop.napalmrecords.com/striker STRIKER carry on the tradition of consistently high level first-class Heavy Metal bands hailing from Canada. Imagine a mixture of Exciter and Savage Grace, intertwined with newer influences of Steelwing or Enforcer, that is what can be expected of the new album City Of Gold.
Sleaze Roxx: It was a cool video. One thing that is unusual about Striker is that I noticed that you put your latest album ‘Stand In The Fire’ out on Soundcloud for anyone to hear it, which seems a little unusual in this day and age where people want to make some revenue or at least not give away everything right away.
Tim Brown: Yeah, well, I think the thing is in this day and age — people have been fighting it for so long and I agree that you know, musicians and music people do need to have income and stuff like that. I mean, any of your favorite bands — it doesn’t matter who they are — they need to have money to make new material, to go on tour, basically anything. The biggest thing these days is that if you like something — it doesn’t even necessarily have to be a band — but especially with all the intellectual property that’s being opened up, you can just go take anything digital you know? It doesn’t matter what it is — software, movies, anything, games… I mean, if you like it, you have to support it. Otherwise, you are just tearing the system down. It’s kind of lame and you know, not anti-music. The industry can definitely be… It’s necessary. It costs us money to go and record. It costs us money to go out on tour. If we did not have any money from record sales or things like that, we just couldn’t and there would be no Striker because there is no way that we can afford to do these things. The reason why we put all our music up online is because it’s going to happen anyways so might as well put it up and have our name attached to it rather than some, you know — especially on YouTube, some of our songs… Someone put up like one of our old songs. It’s called “Full Speed Or No Speed.” That was like hundred thousands of views. It’s great that people have checked it out that much but I would have rather had that uploaded to our channel so that we could, you know, monetize it and make the $5 or whatever that the YouTube ads give you. If someone is going to get money from it, I would just hope that it’s us rather than some random internet troll or whatever.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. You guys started your own label and your album ‘Stand In The Fire’ was on that label. Why did you decide to do that?
Tim Brown: Well, we completed our contract with our old label Napalm Records of Austria and we wanted to do a new album. We kinda looked at what a label does for us and what we can do for ourselves. I mean, we’ve been around for a long time so we have a lot of these contacts already. You know, the publicist that we have been working with under that label said, “Well, why don’t we just cut out the middle man?” Basically, a label these days is just a giant middle man. There is nothing that a label can do that you can’t do yourself. There is absolutely nothing! We found, especially now that we are doing everything ourselves, everything that you can do, you are going to do it better than anyone else can do it for you. Obviously, there are some really highly skilled things that you need some help with — for example, like recording and stuff like that. I mean, we do our own recording actually but there are some things like the mixing, we always send out the mixing ’cause that is your core product. You want it to be as good as possible.
Working with so many people, there is just a level of care and detail that — your band is your baby so you know, you’re really going to put a lot of effort and care into it. We do all these projects, music videos, art, getting manufacturing, stuff like that and we see it because it happens to us all the time. We send a project out or whatever it was, on an old label, it just gets pushed to the wayside and it kind of just sits and stagnates. Or people just don’t give a shit! There are all these errors and things that pop up. When we’re in control, for example, music videos and things like that, we get a final cut of a music video and we’ll say, “Oh! Wait! There’s something wrong here.” For example, a certain music video came back with just mono instead of stereo, and it’s like “Wait a second, you’ve made a mistake. You have to fix this.” But you know, if you’re on a label, maybe someone will not take that same level of care. The more you can do for yourself as a band, the better off you are going to be. I think that’s definitely a big thing that’s happening for modern music. I’ve seen it a lot. Everybody is starting their own labels because labels are dead, you know?
It’s kind of like print media, I’m sure you heard that Team Rock is going bankrupt. It’s like Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Prog Magazine — print media is dead. It’s gone but it’s taken a long time because people still hold on to it. The business is still there. It takes a long time. It’s so ingrained in the culture but it’s been dead for a long time you know? And that’s for the last 15 years. I am amazed that people still go out and buy print media. I think that is the same thing that is happening now with labels. There’s going to be no labels in 15 years except independent small little ones. You got to get ahead of the curve because being on a traditional label is a death sentence nowadays. I see so many bands, they’re like, “Oh, we’re going to sign with this label.” I’m like, “Don’t, don’t do it [laughs].” They sing you know and maybe they get a little brisk of activity and then they’re dead. I’ve seen it a lot to a lot of bands where they kind of get screwed over by a label. Something happens, you get pushed to the wayside. The thing about labels is that you are not in control anymore so that’s kind of the issue. That’s what we wanted to stop. We wanted to be in full control.
Sleaze Roxx: I like your bold prediction! I’ll be following up with you in 15 years to see if it came through [laughs].
Tim Brown: OK [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: You might well be right on that. You guys went from a five piece [band] to a four piece for the last album. How come Chris [Segger] left the band and why did you decide to continue on as a four piece?
Tim Brown: Chris left because — it’s a funny story. Striker ex-members — most of them end up quitting to get married and start a real job [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: OK [laughs].
Tim Brown: That fate certainly didn’t escape Chris. It’s definitely tough being in a band. When we recorded our album ‘City Of Gold’ for example, we were on tour for about a month and then we went straight into the studio in Sweden right after that tour. So we were gone for two and a half months or something, and we were gone over Christmas and things like that. Being in a band, it consumes your entire life. It is very difficult on relationships and things like that. You can’t blame someone for not wanting to sleep on floors and not eat properly for years and years ’cause that’s what it ends up being. You’re like, “OK. Let’s go on tour.” You’re sleeping on floors. You’re eating fast food — whatever. It’s a tough life. You can’t blame anyone when they kind of want to try something else in their life because you know, it’s not for everyone. When we recorded with a four piece, the recording of it was not really any different. We had some guest solos and stuff. Dan [Cleary], our singer, is actually a very excellent guitar player. He did three or four guest solos. For live, since Chris left, we’ve kind of had a session guy with us. It’s worked out really well. Our current guy is named Simon Fallon. He’s from a band called The Order Of Chaos also from Edmonton. And it’s funny because he’s also bald so a lot of people, when we are on tour, they’ll be like “Oh Chris! Can you sign this?” And then it’s Simon but they don’t know. There’s just two bald guys — whatever.
Sleaze Roxx : Sure [laughs]. That’s pretty funny. How did you get into the band? Before you answer that, I noticed that your last name was Vega when you were with Kobra And The Lotus but you switched to Brown. Why did you do that?
Tim Brown: Well, when I was in Kobra And The Lotus, they said, “Your last name is dumb. You need to change it for a stage name.” I was like, “Uuuuhh, ok.” Me personally, I don’t really care so I suggested taking my middle name as my new stage name. My middle name is Fitzgerald so “Timothy Fitzgerald” but they said “No. We want you to be Timothy Vega.” I don’t care [laughs]. So I said, “Whatever. Timothy Vega it is.” I don’t give a shit. That’s what they did so that was my stage name for that band. Adam Brown is my brother and he’s been the drummer for Striker for a long time. Beyond that, before Striker was a band, there was a band that our singer Dan was in that was called Vinyl Spine. My brother and I were in another band called Sixguns at the time. We’ve been playing shows together since 2006 or 2004. In that area — mid 2000s. So we’ve been playing together, playing on the same stages, for the better part of a decade. Going to each other’s shows and stuff like that so it was really natural for me to jump into the band when the old guitar player Ian [Sandercock] quit just because we grew up playing the same kind of music. It’s kind of funny because back in the day, at least here in Edmonton, every other band was a death metal band. Every single band was either death metal or black metal.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Tim Brown: And then there’s two bands in all of Edmonton — maybe even in all of Alberta at the time — with guys with big fluffy hair, spandex pants and playing guitar solos. Because nobody played guitar solos. So it was kind of funny. Now, here we are. It’s kind of funny looking back on it. Basically you know, everybody who wanted to pursue music, or try to be professional at it, you weed out everybody in the city and eventually, there are the last people standing. Those are the people in the band.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, you guys have an ’80s sound to your music for sure but it does sound pretty modern at the same time. How much is the ’80s an influence on the Striker sound?
Tim Brown: I’d say it is a huge influence. I don’t know why exactly. When I was growing up, my first memory of like music is all grunge stuff. At least for me, I was born in the late ’80s so growing up, my memories of music are grunge stuff. I remember that I hated anything on the radio. For me, it was a very strange discovery of music. For example, Metallica — the only Metallica songs that I had ever heard until I was like 16 or 17. The songs that I had heard was “Whisky In The Jar” and “Enter Sandman.” I heard those. I was like, “I hate these songs so much. These songs suck.” And then, my one friend, he was like, “Oh Metallica! They are awesome! You have to listen to ‘Kill ‘Em All.'” But I did not like it and for the longest time, I just did not believe him. Eventually, I got my hands on a ‘Kill ‘Em All’ disc and it was like, “Wow! This is amazing! I love it.” Just sort of, when I started discovery music, what spoke to me for whatever reason was the old school metal.
I think it’s because probably the old school metal had a lot more focus on musicianship. Bands where they can actually play guitar. Singers that can sing. You know, they have things like harmonies and melodies. There’s also a real connection to pop type music, you know pop structures and things like that. Not to say that there isn’t metal these days especially within but I think that the ’90s were a particularly dark and counterculture spin for metal. Most of the metal from that era is very anti-guitar solo. Everybody is wearing camel shorts. There’s a lot of screaming and guttural stuff. It was more of a competition on who could be more extreme rather than who could be more musical. We kind of picked up on that. But yeah, we just love the ’80s, the aesthetics of it all. I don’t know. When I was growing up and listening to music, that’s just the kind of music that stuck out to me. It’s kind of cool though that there are a lot of new metal bands and it’s kind of like a renaissance of metal these days that incorporates a lot of that stuff in it.
Sleaze Roxx: For sure! You guys have an upcoming tour with Sonata Arctica coming up. How did you hook up with them?
Tim Brown: Well, our European distributor was gracious enough to hook us up with that. They are very helpful. They also do our marketing and distribution. Yeah, they’re great guys and they got us this tour and that’s kind of how it is. It’s kind of funny. Sonata Arctica are doing their North American tour right now or they just finished. They came to Edmonton here and so we went to visit them but we also stopped by our local brewery. Only two of us managed to make it to the end of the night!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Tim Brown: The rest of us had to leave early but we’ll leave that story at that [laughs]. Yeah but we are really looking forward to that. It’s going to be a great tour. Right before we do that tour, we’re on a US tour. We are currently doing 15 or 16 shows in the States. We went down the west coast and are currently going across the south and then we head back up north up to Edmonton. And then we fly straight out to Frankfurt [Germany] and start our seven week tour with Sonata [Arctica].
Sleaze Roxx: What are your other plans for 2017? I see you have a new album that is about to be released!
Tim Brown: Yes, we have a new album coming out. We have a presale for our new album, which will end soon. Then we’ll be doing some more touring. Hopefully, we’ll have a second European tour in the summer and another North American tour, a full North American tour where we hit the west coast and the east coast. That will be in the spring or the fall, and then hopefully, if we play our cards right, we can go somewhere nice and exciting like Japan or South America.
Sleaze Roxx: How is the new album going to compare to ‘Stand In The Fire’?
Tim Brown: Well, for our newest album, we wanted it to have it — we wanted more of a minimalist approach to it so instead of eleven songs, there’s nine. We wanted to keep it shorter. We also just really wanted to just cut everything down. So it’s a little bit more — we went kind of more straight to the point. Everything is a little bit more — I don’t know how to describe it really. Since getting the final master, I listen to it all the time. I think it’s really interesting in the past, I’d be in other bands where you’d finish an album and you put the disc on, and you’d say, “OK. That’s it. I’m done with this now.” Because you listen to the songs thousands and thousands of times — recording them and stuff like that. Especially with ‘Stand In The Fire’ and our upcoming album, it’s still enjoyable for me to listen to.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Tim Brown: I think it just means that it’s a good product overall. If I can still listen to it and enjoy it after listening to these songs literally thousands of times, I hope that someone else can at least listen to it once [laughs] and enjoy it before they get bored of it.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Why did you decide to strip down the songs and make them shorter?
Tim Brown: One reason was the Sonata Arctica tour. We got an offer for that months ago and our European guy said, “You know, it would be a really good idea if you had an album out for that tour.” And we said, “You know what? That would be awesome.” We had been planning to be doing or releasing an album around that time frame anyways so we said, “OK. Let’s crank an album out.” One of the things that we decided to do was that we wanted to make it shorter because it would make it easier to record in the first place but also, we found that kind of on our last… All of our other albums have like… ‘City Of Gold’ has 15 songs including bonus tracks. All of our other albums have about eleven songs. It’s just that they are very long. We found that you know that people can get bored easily. We see it with our live show too. As someone who goes to live shows and listens to a lot of music, it’s hard to keep the energy up for more than an hour, especially for live shows. On recorded music, we find that there are some albums that you can put on that are long albums and you can listen to every song, and they are all great, but most of the time, each listener has a song here or there that they just don’t resonate as well with. There’s always going to be that song that people are going to skip due to their personal choice or whatever.
We just wanted an album where every single song was full tilt, where every single song was going to be awesome. So we did not want to have any of those songs that were “skippable.” We wanted every single song to be ten out of ten. In the past maybe, we said, “OK. We really like this song and we really like this other song too. Why don’t we include it?” Even though maybe, we till thought it was a great song but not totally amazing like all of our other songs. So for this album, we really wanted to cut it down to strictly the stuff that we thought was absolutely the best. And that’s kind of what we did. When we were writing the songs, we did that with every single part, every guitar line. With everything, it was, “How do we make this better?” If a part wasn’t the absolute best that it could be, we just got rid of it. That’s kind of what we did. I think our songwriting, especially on the last three albums, has really gone in that direction. For example, on ‘City Of Gold’ which is now two albums ago, if you look at some of the songs, they have two or three intros. They’re cool but at the same time, get to the point! So on the last album, there were only just a few intros where the songs got right to the point pretty quick. With this album, again it’s straight to the point. It’s “Bam!” It just gets you. Same thing, we just wanted to cram as much into the smallest package that we could get to make it super efficient. Maximum shred!
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Does that mean your sound will be a little bit more commercial if the songs are simplified?
Tim Brown: Hmmm. It started when we sent our demos off to the producer for mixing to see what he thought of them. He said, “You guys have been listening to too much Toto.”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Tim Brown: …which is funny but I mean, we really like Toto and Journey and stuff like that, so we always had a kind of hair metal / AOR kind of component to our sound. At least for me, the words “commercial music” are kind of dirty words but at the same time, there are a lot of those commercial bands that we really like and we like a lot of elements from those bands. So for us, it’s not as much of — we’re not trying to exploit commercial music. We are just writing music that we like to listen to and that’s kind of what we have always done. Sometimes, you just go through phases where you just want to thrash and sometimes you want to have a more sing along type song. On this album, I probably say this with every album I’ve ever done but this album is the most diverse for sure. We have probably our fastest song easily. One song is like a super fast, super thrash. It’s almost like a metal core song — hardcore — and it’s like super extreme. On the other side of that, we have songs that are some of our most you know commercial so to speak — very poppy. But it’s awesome. For me, it’s a little bit of everything. We think it’s awesome and hopefully other people like it too.
Sleaze Roxx: When did you record the new album?
Tim Brown: We recorded in October  and then it was sent off for mixing in November and we had the final masters at the beginning of December. It will be out in late February.
Striker‘s “Born To Lose” song:
New single Born to Lose!